The activities of the Thematic Network range from the SWArctic Newsletter and the Journal of Comparative Social Work publications to the joint Comparative Social Work master's program and participation in the EU projects VirCamp and Social Work with Families. In addition, there is also an active page on Facebook where TN participants discuss their activities.
Research Office (R.O.) Lydia, could you tell about the Social Work Thematic Network, how it is organized and who is the leader?
Lydia Kriulya (L.K.) The Thematic Network was founded in 2006 and includes eleven partner universities from the USA, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Russia. There is no permanent leader of the network. Leadership is transferred from one member to another every four years. In 2014 it has been transferred from the University of Nordland (Norway) to the University of Regina (Canada).
R.O. It must be difficult to organize a coordinated work among so many partners. How do you maintain communication?
L.K. We have meetings online every three months to discuss further joint actions and initiatives. Our main principles are voluntary basis and rotation. We discuss our plans and make decisions together. For instance, we produce the newsletter in turns depending on relevant information and news availability. In addition, we meet every other year before the World Conference on Social Work.
R.O. Please tell more about this conference?
L.K. The World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development is held every other year. This year it was organized in Australia, and more than 1,500 participants from 170 countries came to Melbourne to exchange their experiences. Thanks to the work in the Thematic Network, I was lucky to take part in the conference and give a presentation about our collaborative research. This was a double responsibility for me: I was the only representative from our Northern (Arctic) Federal University and from Russia.
R.O. A Thematic Network's activities are a personal initiative and commitment of its participants - their work is not paid for. In your opinion, what are the advantages of this work?
L.K. First of all, it's a great experience; it is professional and personal growth. We learn a lot: how to answer colleagues’ emails on time, how to organize and structure our work, etc. It also requires self-discipline and even diplomatic skills. Thematic Networks give you powerful inclusion in the international academic environment and provide better understanding of the scientific activity’s mechanisms and differences between local and foreign scientific schools. I find it interesting to compare our approaches and share relevant scientific articles and other sources of information with colleagues. It helps me in my everyday work. For instance, we include articles in the lists of recommended sources and use them when reviewing courses. We also share our experiences and research results. There is a growing interest in and respect for our experts. Our citation index slowly grows. I can also say that all the colleagues of the Thematic Network are teachers for each other.
R.O. How do you see your future activities?
L.K. While teaching at the University of Nordland, I participated in the recording of two video lectures which are now used by me and in the VirCamp project. I think this work direction is very promising. We also promote the idea of video lectures in our institute. We want to involve specialists who do not speak English well but have significant research experience, and graduate students with a good knowledge of terminology and language. As a result, we hope to get a few videos in English on the most important and interesting topics. As for our network future activities, we plan to launch a forum for graduate and master students on Facebook (Master Thesis Forum) where they can share information sources and obtain professional advice from the members of our network. Besides, we discuss the widening possibility of our network and deepening of the recently established contacts with China. Their experience is very interesting for us. In short, we have a lot of plans and we will continue working together.